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Forbidden City

Visit Forbidden City


Forbidden City, also known as the Palace Museum, lies in the centre of China’s capital Beijing. Closed to the outside world until 1925, it is one of the most astonishing and unmissable tourist attractions in the world.

About Forbidden City

Constructed between 1406 and 1420, Forbidden City was the Imperial Palace for 24 Ming and Qing emperors until 1912, when the Qing dynasty was ousted and the imperial era ended. In those 500 years it was forbidden for ordinary people to enter its gates without special permission, hence its name. In 1925, members of the public were allowed to enter for the first time. Now, it welcomes around 15 million visitors every year!

Forbidden City covers some 74 hectares – roughly twice the size of the Vatican – and consists of 980 buildings surrounded by 17-metre-wide moat and a 10-metre-high wall. Legend has it that there are 9,999 rooms (the number 9 represents longevity) but the actual total is 8,707.

Constructed to project the emperor’s connection to heaven, Forbidden City was designed to be a small model of the cosmos. The buildings face south in accordance with feng shui principles, and most have yellow tiled roofs – yellow being the symbol of the Chinese Imperial family. The main structures stand on a foundation of crisscrossing bricks to minimise possible earthquake damage – one of many examples of architectural ingenuity. Some scholars estimate that over two million labourers and craftspeople took part in building the great palace. In 1987 it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Visiting Forbidden City

Forbidden City’s Palace Museum houses some of the most impressive jewellery and art in all of China, whilst the decorative splendour and architectural beauty are quite breathtaking. Here are three of the many highlights you’ll see on your visit:

Hall of Supreme Harmony

Take a deep breath as you enter the largest, tallest and most magnificent building in Forbidden City. The interior is dominated by six huge gilded columns coiled with dragons, the symbol of the emperor. On a raised platform sits the golden imperial throne of 24 emperors, regarded as the centre of the Chinese universe. In this awe-inspiring hall, emperors were married, enthroned, celebrated New Year and dispatched generals to fight. On the ceiling you will see two dragons playing with pearls painted with mercury. If a usurper sat on the throne, a pearl would drop down and strike him dead.

Palace of Heavenly Peace

The most important building in the Inner Court, this is where the emperor lived, slept and handled government affairs. In the centre of the hall is a square platform with a throne, the emperor’s desk and an ornate dragon screen. The throne is inlaid with rubies and emeralds, and has gilded handles designed to look like coiled dragons. After emperors died they were laid in state here. The Palace of Heavenly Purity was built in 1420, but had to be rebuilt after a destructive fire.

Hall of Central Harmony

The smallest of the Three Great Halls of the Outer Court, this square structure is built like a pavilion, with five bays along each side. There is a throne room here where the emperor gathered his thoughts, prepared elegiac addresses, donned ritual clothing and rested before going to the Hall of Supreme Harmony to perform his duties. To get the emperor in the proper mood for those duties, incense burners surrounding the throne were lit. Then he would be conveyed by eight men on one of the 250-year old sedan chairs on display.

Tours of Forbidden City

Visit Forbidden City on one of these Escorted Tours...

China Discovery Tour
China Discovery Tour

Incorporating the three major cities of Shanghai, Xi'an and Beijing, this 10-day tour is the perfect way to explore the highlights of China.

10
days
from
£1099pp
Glorious China
Glorious China

Glimpse into the future beneath Shanghai's cloud brushing skyline, cruise upon the Li River to observe China's rural heart against a backdrop of immense karsts and step back in time on a rickshaw as you navigate Beijing's ancient hutong alleys to the revered Lama Temple.

14
days
from
£1479pp
Splendours of China by Rail
Splendours of China by Rail

Embark on a leisurely exploration of China;s intriguing interior, delving into the country's rich cultural legacy as you explore ethnic settlements, bustling city markets and age-old temples by rail.

15
days
from
£1649pp
Wonders of China
Wonders of China

This amazing 16 day, 14 night tour journeys across one of the world's largest and most interesting countries, seeped in ancient history and brimming with world-renowned sights.

16
days
from
£1799pp
Highlights of China and Vietnam
Highlights of China and Vietnam

Experience the dynamic energy of two of Asia's most fascinating countries - China, a former imperial power growing from strength to strength, and Vietnam, a medley of high-octane cities and idyllic country settings recovering from a war-torn past.

16
days
from
£1899pp
Highlights of China and Beyond
Highlights of China and Beyond

This cultural heritage tour combines the iconic highlights of China and introduces you to a deeper insight of this fascinating country.

13
days
from
£1959pp
Grand Tour of China
Grand Tour of China

From the cosmopolitan cities of Beijing and Shanghai to the remote ancient town of Lijiang and the stunning Li River in Guilin, explore China in depth as you visit the most iconic sights as well as discovering its hidden treasures on this incredible 25-day journey.

25
days
from
£2699pp